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Grilling Gloves or Summer Glovin’

Ah, summer grilling. It is such a relaxing pursuit and a very social way of eating. Don’t let the calendar fool you – grilling is not a season but a way of cooking. This method of cooking does present a small problem for the cook, working around hot coals on a hot/warm day can be rough on ones hands and wrist.

I recently had to buy a new grilling glove for my cooking needs and took the opportunity to try out several styles.

I have always been fond of suede leather gloves. I developed this fondness after using them in the fireplace. It occurred to me that if I can lift a burning log and move it around with the glove, then why not use it in cooking.

Grilling Gloves

Given this experience, I wanted to find out if my preference was well founded or just a personal opinion.

What Is The Grilling Glove Intended To Do?

While the answer to this question may seem somewhat obvious, each form of cooking does present unique needs. An oven mitt or potholder has the same basic intent as a grilling glove, which is to prevent someone from burning their hand or arm on hot items. However, there are differences between stove/oven and grilling use and therefore the need for various types of gloves and mitts.

When cooking on a stovetop, you need to protect yourself from being burned by a hot pan. In the oven, you are protecting your hand from the hot pans and also hot air, oven racks and walls. When you grill, you are handling hot grill tools, grates/racks and lids, and you must also protect your arm from the searing heat of the grill. Unlike most stovetop or oven cooking, when grilling, you tend to hold your hands directly over the heat.

This variation in “risk” will make some mitts better suited than others for certain tasks and where the materials make the biggest difference.

Materials

The most common material is cloth, or what I will call the traditional oven mitt. We all probably have this type of inexpensive oven mitt in our home today and these inexpensive mitts are often made in whimsical or humorous shapes. The more decorative mitts have little to no insulation and are marginally useful. Better oven mitts or grilling gloves have thicker layers of “thinsulate” material or padding which provides improved protection from the heat.

The aforementioned “fireplace” gloves, made of suede leather, are comprised of multiple, double stitched layers of leather filled with non asbestos insulating felt. A relatively new trend has seen heat resistant silicone gloves become popular.

The very newest entry in the oven mitt/grill glove segment, aramid fibers, are a class of heat-resistant and strong synthetic fibers. The aramid fibers are used in aerospace and military applications, for ballistic rated body armor fabric and ballistic composites, in bicycle tires, and as an overall asbestos substitute. Of course what is available for home is a bit less durable, but still effective.

The Tests

I came up with a few measurements which will help determine the ability of a mitt/grilling glove to provide protection in everyday cooking conditions and assigned ratings of Excellent, Pretty Good, OK, Not So Good, to give a quick summary of performance.

Stove/Oven Test
This test included picking up hot pans or lids, removing baking dishes from a hot oven and working over pots in use on the stove.

Grill Test
This test included all uses around the grill – handling hot grill lids, tongs, the grill rack, stainless steel accessories and grilling planks.

Heat Tolerance Test
I performed this test to discover how well the glove/mitt protected my hand and arm from the searing heat of the grill. To reinforce the test I held my hand a couple inches above a very hot charcoal fire. In reality, while your hands and arms are over hot coals during grilling, they are typically held at a higher distance from the fire, but can still receive enough heat to singe hair and redden your skin.

Arm coverage
This wasn’t a test so much as measurement of protection.

Dexterity
This measured how well I could pick up tools and necessary cooking items – forks, tongs, brushes – while wearing the glove. Often it is risky or inconvenient to take off the glove to get something only to have to put the mitt back on to continue cooking. I am a big proponent of dexterity in a work glove.

The Line-Up

I used suede leather gloves, 100% silicone gloves, the aramid fiber Pitt Mitt, better quality cloth oven mitts and a decorative cloth oven mitt.

Leather Gloves

Steve Raichlen Suede Leather GlovesSuede Leather Gloves Long

The leather gloves were just a normal set of “fireplace” gloves but which are sometimes sold as grilling gloves. They are made by many companies including Weber but in this case I used Charcoal Companion. They are made from suede leather and have multiple layers of leather and the requisite non asbestos insulating felt. The outer leather layer actually toughens up with continued use.

The leather proved to be the most versatile of the test group. As proof of their full season usefulness, I use leather gloves in the fireplace handling burning logs during colder seasons as well as around the grill in warmer weather.

The leather provided very good protection when used on the stovetop or in the oven. With the length of this glove, I had full reach in the oven and no worries about burns. I moved pizza stones with no problems.

There is one draw back to some brands of leather gloves – tanning dyes may leach color if wet and or hot. I had one black set that leached color on my bamboo steaming racks, cutting boards and pans.

On and around the grill is where leather gloves excelled. They provided great protection when lifting and moving all manner of grilling tools or lids or planks. If you are bold, you can backhand the charcoal and spread them out using this glove, while quick movement of coals with the gloves are possible, don’t hold try to hold or carry burning coals.

Leather gloves provided the highest level of heat tolerance of all the mitts tested. Eventually I had to move my hand away from the heat, but it took quite a while even with the most intense fire. Under regular grilling situations you won’t feel a thing. The glove covered all the way to my elbow – best coverage of the group. Because it has 5 fingers, I was able to pick up small objects like forks with some effort, but medium and large objects presented no problem.

Stove/Oven Test – Pretty Good

Grill Test – Excellent

Heat Tolerance Test – Excellent

Arm coverage – Excellent

Dexterity – Pretty Good

 

Pitt Mitt

Pitt MittPitt Mitt

The Pitt Mitt is made by Charcoal Companion. This is a product that uses aramid fibers in the construction. Think “Ove Glove” for the grill. The only real difference between the Pitt Mitt and the Ove Glove is the cuff length. The Pitt Mitt is longer and will protect more of your arm than Ove Glove. The Ove Glove uses a combination of aramid fibers and Kevlar, which interestingly is a form of aramid called para-aramid. Unlike the Ove Glove, the Pitt Mitt will be sold as a grilling glove along with other grill related products.

I was skeptical of the Pitt Mitt initially, but I must say it performed as well as the leather gloves in almost every test. It did very well around the stove and oven. There wasn’t a task where I didn’t feel comfortable using it and it fit so comfortably, I would leave it on without thinking while moving around the kitchen.

At the grill it did very well: moving hot grill racks, lids, picking up wood grilling planks. Never a problem at all, I never worried about getting burned. In fact it was only about 15 seconds behind the leather in the heat tolerance test. I would not move or pick up coals with this one however, the silicone piping may not last if you do.

Speaking of the silicone piping, these strips are strategically placed on the glove to provide a more sure grip. However they can get very hot if you are tightly gripping a very hot, heavy pan, such as a multi-ply roasting pan loaded with a 15-lb turkey. My assumption is that the silicone becomes very hot, the heavy weight compresses the materials allowing heat to reach the skin. It won’t happen often and maybe not at all, but wanted to make you aware that it could happen.

As for dexterity, this is where the Pitt Mitt is unmatched. It was so form fitting and flexible I could pick up the tiniest objects. Like the leather gloves it has five fingers and the material is great, with the silicone grip lines, you can grip or pick up almost anything. The phrase “fits like a glove” totally applies here. The arm coverage is actually quite good, third behind the leather gloves and the Flame Guard brand mitt.

The only other draw back, if you will, is that Pitt Mitt is sold as a single. I would prefer a pair, especially for the cost. In spite of the minor complaints, I like this product very much.

Stove/Oven Test- Pretty Good

Grill Test – Excellent

Heat Tolerance Test – Excellent

Arm coverage – Pretty Good

Dexterity – Excellent

 

Silicone Glove

The silicone gloves in this test were manufactured by SiliconeZone, but there are a few manufacturers producing them now. They are a full length pair of silicone gloves, mitten shaped, with ridges in the palm area for better gripping. They are often sold near areas which have a seafood heritage, sometimes listed as a lobster glove.

You will see smaller versions of silicone mitts sold which cover only the hand or fingers. Note: the smaller silicone oven mitts/grips are good for removing baking sheets from the oven, but not for grilling or other uses in the kitchen.

For the stove and oven tests, these gloves worked just fine. I had no trouble with pots or pans or even in the oven. In fact, I was able to reach into boiling water and pull things out. I could see these working well with lobsters.

The silicone did not do so well around the grill. While it was OK with the tools, rack, lid, etc., it was not good over the coals. The silicone gloves just didn’t protect from the heat from the grill. When I held my hands over the hot coals, the silicone started to cook my hand and wrist. I was surprised how quickly it transferred heat to the skin then I thought about silicone bakeware. This glove worked just like that, transferring the heat to my hand like it was baking cupcakes. I was somewhat surprised because they worked so well in the hot water. They performed the worst of all over the coals.

The arm coverage is pretty good. In the oven if I bumped my arm, the silicone would protect it. The gripping capability was good for pans, racks trays and the like. I do frequently use the 100% silicone glove to hold large roasts steady while carving or removing meat. Because it is all silicone, it can go into the dishwasher to remove oils, fats and stubborn odors. The basic mitten like shape prevented me from picking up small things or doing complex tasks requiring dexterity.

Stove/Oven Test – Pretty Good

Grill Test – OK

Heat Tolerance Test – Not So good

Arm coverage – Pretty Good

Dexterity – Not So Good

Update: Since the time this article was originally written, SiliconeZone “went away”, then returned under different ownership. The silicone oven mitt is not a product that is manufactured and I am not sure if it will return to their product line up. The closest product in design and style is this one from Mastrad.

Mastrad silicone mitt

Mastrad silicone mitt at Amazon

 

Traditional Mitts

The first cloth oven mitt tested is made by Flame Guard. It is simply a thick insulated oven mitt, but it performed surprisingly well. You can tell the difference between sturdy cloth based oven mitts like All Clad, Weber, Flameguard, etc. and their flimsy cousins simply by the thickness, weight and heft. Most decorative or whimsical mitts will be light, thin and shorter. Good quality products likes Flame Guard, Weber, et al will be sold as grilling gloves in the BBQ section of the hardware or kitchen shop.

The well insulated FlameGuard mitt is not only thick, but also comes in a long version (I tested a 17″ model) and has a great outside layer that is easy to clean. The Flame Guard did very well around the stove and particularly well in the oven. Around the grill the Flame Guard performed very well.

It was third behind the Pitt Mitt and the leather gloves at the grill. The material and construction kept my hand and arm protected with no problems. I felt like the grip could be better although the very thing that made it so tolerant of heat may have contributed to the lack of grip.

The heat tolerance of the flame guard was very close to the leather gloves and Pitt Mitt. I was impressed. Arm coverage on the one I tested was just shy of the leather gloves. If you are looking for a glove that is good around oven, lifting trays & pans and want good protection or just want a solid glove, this is the one for you.

Stove/Oven Test – Excellent

Grill Test – Pretty Good

Heat Tolerance Test – Pretty Good

Arm coverage – Excellent (in some models, I tested 17″ version)

Dexterity – Not So Good

Flameguard Oven MittFlameguard Oven Mitt

 

The next traditional oven mitt was made by AllClad. It wasn’t as insulated as the FlameGuard or as long, but for most things in the kitchen would be just fine. This mitt is not unlike many you will find sold in housewares departments.

AllClad Oven MittAllClad Oven Mitt

Around the stove the AllClad did just fine handling all the pots and pans. In the oven, it performed well with hot racks and trays. It kept the hands and wrists safe from hot surfaces. At the grill the AllClad did surprising well save for the exposed forearm. It handled the grill lid and racks OK, but I couldn’t hold them for long without the heat transferring to my hands. Picking up grilling planks and other such grill trays did not work so well.

The heat tolerance test was OK – I was forced to move my hand within a short time, nowhere near as good as the better choices. The arm coverage was average for this mitt, but you will find most oven mitts have similar length. You will have to take care with your arms in the oven as the length would put you at risk of burns if reaching too far into the oven.

As with all mitten style gloves, there is little to no dexterity. Simple lifting and carrying is all you can do. This model is not different.

Stove/Oven Test – Pretty Good

Grill Test – Pretty Good

Heat Tolerance Test – Pretty Good

Arm coverage – OK

Dexterity – Not So Good

 

Decorative Style Traditional Oven Mitt

These mitts are the cute ones seen in almost any shop that sells potholders or oven mitts. They can be floral or whimsically shaped like fish, animals or the like. They are made for style and fun, not function. In general they are not very useful in a practical sense around the kitchen.

While they do a fair job around the stove or oven, heat can quickly pass to your hand. The basic designs ensure lack of dexterity and arm coverage. If fact some designs might even be a bit more hazardous due to extra material for fins or other silly appendages. The heat tolerance was very low and would provide very little real protection, particularly around the grill where the searing heat could damage the aforementioned appendages. I will admit that they can be fun as a conversation piece or whimsy.

Stove/Oven Test – OK

Grill Test – Not So Good

Heat Tolerance Test – Not So Good

Arm coverage – Not So Good

Dexterity – Not So Good

Cowhead oven mitt

Summary

Every oven mitt or grilling glove will fail at some point as repeated contact with extreme temperatures will breakdown the protective ability of all materials. You will know when it is time to replace it – your hand will come close to getting burned on a regular basis. As mentioned in the Pitt Mitt section, with a heavier a hot pan, the tighter you grip the more likely it will burn through the gloves to your hand. All of them are vulnerable to heat getting through when lifting a very hot, heavy pan. Then again, grilling gloves or mitts are only meant to quickly move the pan from point A to point B, not hold onto indefinitely.

In most cases, except the decorative mitts, all the tested mitts were adequate in the stove and oven areas. When grilling, the focus of the article, I prefer the leather gloves set.

The Pitt Mitt is a very close second, almost 1A, but would prefer it was sold as a pair as they are a more costly option.

Finishing a close third place is FlameGuard. Again, I wish Flameguard was sold as a pair, though some people only use one glove for grilling, as I often do, but having the second glove at the ready is very practical. If purchased as a pair, the 17″ FlameGuard are almost the same price as the leather gloves, but still represent the quality value choice.

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7 Responses to “Grilling Gloves or Summer Glovin’”

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